UCL Grand Challenges


Structurally Unsound

Structurally Unsound - Exploring Inequalities: Igniting research to better inform UK policy  

Structurally Unsound, five years on: how can the UK bridge the equality gap?


Structurally Unsound was first published in 2019, and took an in-depth look at the causes and consquences of inequality in the UK. Five years since publication, the report's authors ask, is Britain's inequality gap widening, and what can policymakers do to address it? 

As part of the London Festival of Architecture, we have joined with partners including Women in Architecture, Commonplace and The Building Society to explore what a more equitable London could look like, and create a vision of a future city. Join us for this creative, in-person event on Thursday 20 June. More details and to book your tickets here.

Download Structurally Unsound report (pdf)

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Inequalities are deeply embedded in our society, permeating throughout our social structures and institutions. Legislative responses that outlaw discriminatory behaviours and promote positive change are an essential part of the battle, but the structural nature of horizontal inequalities (that is, those that apply to entire groups such as women, disabled people, LGBT individuals, and people of colour rather than just at the individual level) mean that they are not necessarily sufficient. That is particularly the case once we account for additional complications associated with the intersection of various forms of horizontal inequality. The inequalities faced by women of colour are not simply those faced by white women with a racial element ‘added on’: they are fundamentally different. 

Making further progress rests, as ever, on securing political and social will for change. But it rests too on further developing the evidence base – both in terms of more accurately capturing the nuance of the problem statement, and better understanding what works when it comes to policy interventions. It is that goal which this project has pursued. Over the course of nine months, UCL and the Resolution Foundation have convened a series of roundtables and undertaken interviews with research and policy experts from a range of disciplines, policy areas, sectors and locations. Five cross‑cutting themes have emerged that we believe warrant consideration by all members of the research and policymaking communities that want to more effectively tackle structural inequalities in the UK: 

  • Language
  • Opportunity
  • Understanding evidence
  • Voice
  • Place

We construct a deliberately technocratic list of lessons that researchers and policymakers should consider when thinking about how to better approach the study and treatment of structural inequalities. In this way, we hope to spread best practice and help plug the gaps in understanding that our expert engagement identified.

Lead Authors
Siobhan Morris, Oliver Patel, Dr Clare Stainthorp, and Dr Olivia Stevenson

With contributions from
Professor Nick GallentFahmida Rahman, Katherine Welch, and Matthew Whittaker

This report was undertaken in partnership between UCL’s Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality, UCL Public Policy, and the Resolution Foundation.

Download Structurally Unsound report (pdf)